Airport-linked hotel proposed near center Conference facility called good for county

November 19, 1998|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

A Glen Burnie businessman is going after the travel dollars of national and international visitors moving through Baltimore-Washington International Airport with a proposal to build an upscale hotel and conference facility near the community's town center.

Thomas E. Stuehler, president of La Fontaine Bleu Enterprises, said yesterday he is planning to build a $17 million, 150-room hotel next to his banquet hall at 7514 Ritchie Highway. Stuehler said he plans to advertise it as the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center BWI to attract business travelers coming through the airport.

"It's eight minutes from [the La Fontaine Bleu door] to the front door of the airport," said Stuehler, who plans to run shuttle buses to the airport. "And I have so many, many more amenities to offer than the other hotels that are on the other side of the airport. Glen Burnie is literally exploding."

Stuehler, still working on financing for the project, said he has a letter of agreement from Radisson Hotels Worldwide and hopes to present his proposal to county planners early next year. He said he hopes to get approval by mid-1999. The earliest the hotel could be completed is the middle of 2000.

Kristi Arndt, spokeswoman for the Minneapolis-based hotel chain, confirmed that Radisson is discussing the Glen Burnie project with Stuehler.

Stuehler presented his proposal at a Glen Burnie Town Center meeting yesterday.

"It's a perfect complement to what's there now, and it's also an economic development tool," said Patricia A. Barland, a county administrator who has planned the town center, where construction will begin in the next few weeks. "It will bring in more jobs."

Stuehler said he began thinking about building a hotel on his 3.5 acres where La Fontaine Bleu stands after seeing the county's plans to build up Glen Burnie about two years ago.

"Compare my location with the other [BWI] hotels -- I have a hike-biker trail, you can walk to the post office, to drugstores, to a great town center that's going to have an ice skating rink, to several restaurants in the area," Stuehler said. "You can walk to the light rail, which means within 10 minutes you can go from my location to downtown Baltimore to a ballgame. I definitely think I'll have an edge over the other hotels. We're offering a slightly different product."

Neil M. Shpritz, executive director of the BWI Business Partnership, said Stuehler's plan to build a BWI-linked hotel in the heart of Glen Burnie "pushes out the [BWI-area] border a little bit more." But he said enough travelers come through the airport to warrant building another hotel. In the 80 square miles around BWI are 22 hotels -- seven of which were built within the past year.

"It's certainly no threat," Shpritz said. "I believe there's enough to go around."

Griff Hall, executive director of the Northern Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce, said the proposed hotel would help Glen Burnie businesses.

Visitors "will need goods and services when they're here," he said. "It gives people more reason to visit the town center's stores and the businesses in the surrounding area."

Glen Burnie has battled for 30 years to revive its downtown. The hotel would be an easy walk to the new town center, which will include a 54-unit apartment complex, an ice rink, an amphitheater and stores anchored by a 38,000-square-foot Food Lion supermarket. Barland said 85 percent of the town center's store space is leased.

Stuehler said he hopes having La Fontaine Bleu, a five-room banquet hall that can seat 1,100, next to the hotel will encourage companies to hold conferences there.

"Glen Burnie, unfortunately, is not thought of as a great area for a conference but we have wonderful conference facilities," Stuehler said.

Hall said the hotel could help change an unfortunate perception of Glen Burnie as the stepchild of Anne Arundel County.

"When you're attracting the kind of clientele that they're focusing on, that can't help but to enhance an area," Hall said. "A hotel of this kind certainly goes a long way in changing that perception."

Pub Date: 11/19/98

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